Looking beyond CYF for solutions

To vulnerable children and at risk families CYF may look more like a problem than a solution.  The Children’s Commissioner’s State of Care Report found that at times they create more problems than they solve when they place children in state care that doesn’t care for them adequately.

CYF (Child, Youth, Familiy) is a Government department that has a responsibility to help keep children safe.

Who we are and what we do

We help families help themselves. We believe all children belong in families that will love and nurture them. We team up with many different groups and people so that families have the support they need to help their children thrive.

What we do

We work closely with families to help them find their own solutions, so they can:

  • deal with their problems
  • make the changes they need so their children will be safe and well cared for
  • achieve their goals for the family.

When children need secure, loving, long-term homes, we’ll work with family and whanau, caregivers, and adoptive parents to find them one.

When young people offend, we want them to get back on track and make good decisions in the future. We’ll organise a conference for the young person, their family and the victim of their offending to meet and talk about the impact of their actions. We’ll then help them get back on track for a successful future.

We partner up with hundreds of social services providers to get the message to communities – together we can help all our children be safe, strong and thrive!

So they have an important role to play – but one of their most effective roles may be to work with and refer to solutions beyond themelves.

An NZ Herald special report looks at this – A child abuse solution beyond CYF.

Fixing child abuse and neglect is all about building relationships with families in need, social workers say.

It requires respect and time and an ability to connect through a common culture. And that is likely to require far more fluid ways of working than the fixed roles and rigid time limits that have been part of the culture of Child, Youth and Family (CYF).

A succession of inquiries into CYF has found collaboration has been sacrificed to deadlines. Repeated reviews of the worst cases, such as the 13-year-old boy who killed Henderson dairy owner Arun Kumar featured in the Weekend Herald, have found children fall through the cracks.

Grant Wilson, a social worker for West Auckland’s Te Whanau o Waipareira who worked with the boy’s drug-addicted family, says CYF can’t hope to build a trusting relationship with such a family under current rules. Last year the average CYF worker looked after 14 families and saw them for a total of only 13 per cent of their paid hours each week.

“My method is to build a substantial relationship with those people,” Mr Wilson says. “Having a shared experience is a really important thing when you’re trying to build a relationship with someone who’s been in prison, who thinks their life is more ratshit than anyone else’s.”


Katie Murray of Kaitaia-based youth agency Waitomo Papakainga says that as 58 per cent of children in state care are Maori, CYF must work with agencies like hers.

“You cannot be sending non-Maori into our hard Maori homes,” she says. “But I can send any of my crew in there and it doesn’t matter which gang it is, they all know us in town.”


The Maori Women’s Welfare League has told the Rebstock panel CYF needs to share investigation and decision-making with community groups, hand over running family group conferences to community leaders, hold the conferences on marae instead of in CYF offices, place children with extended whanau, and work with their parents so the children can return if possible.

“[We] need to develop a culture within CYF that they are there to help, not to prosecute,” it says.

While CYF is the Government agency with overall responsibiklity for the safety of children in families the solutions have to be found withion families and within communities as much as possible.

Leave a comment


  1. DaveG

     /  31st August 2015

    This article depresses me a little. The so called Communities, might sound good on paper, but its all BS and bluster. All hui no doie and then just blame the government, its agencies, and find a reason to hold hand out for more money in an ongoing attempt ot fix the issues, whilst doing very little to address the real problem – the problem of Maori accepting and silencing violence and abuse of their women and children!!!

    The Herald ran an interesting article on the weekend as referenced above, looking at the background and upbringing of the little scumbag who killed Mr Kumur, the sth Auckland shop keeper. Despite trying to pin everything on the government, the real issue was ICE and DRUG addictions, coupled with a Gang background going back several generations. Not one of his so called IWI, WHANAU, or these so called Communities stepped in to do a thing, just like when one of their own kills their kids, the cone of silence decends, and its hushed up. The police cannot get a word from any of these so called caring and proud communities..

    Not one of these Maori organisations is achieving anywhere near what they should be, they wont stand on toes and do whats needed, instead making kind suggestions, and offering hugs. Once again, the elephant in society fails, and blames whitey, holds hand out for more cash. Quell Surprise.

    The issue, excuse the pun – Once Were Warriors culture, now they take no responsibility. Surely its time for the decent elders to stamp their authority, stop the gravy train and culture of acceptance, and blaming everyone else but themselves, and to take personal responsibility for this abuse, and the terrible stats that ARE Maori Voilence and crime.. For an Alcoholic to start recovery / treatment, they frst need to accept they are an alcoholic.

    When will Maori elders, and the ones to influence, stand up and say: “We have a problem, we are abusing, assaulting and killing our woman and children, it stops NOW”

    NB: The stats above, 58% of those in state care are Maori children, now compare that to all other cultures / communities etc, its almost the same % as those in prison, etc etc, yet Maori are only 15% of the population – when will this be accepted as their problem?

    • BUt but but..DaveG – bottom up taking responsibility doesn’t work… according to Steve Taylor [see the other post on Child abuse yesterday]

      I agree Maori have a problem, and ultimately only they can fix it via a calling out of this shite…. Kelvin Davies has started speaking out about but it needs more people doing it in the local streets of our communities to fix the problem….

  2. Goldie

     /  31st August 2015

    Well said DaveG.

    PeteG: “the solutions have to be found withion families and within communities”
    But those families and communities are deeply dysfunctional and are probably the source of the problem to begin with. Maori communities generally have done a rubbish job at equipping their people for the modern world, so believing those same communities would succeed at mending broken kids is silly. Sending at risk kids to live with extended whanau or local communities is just perpetrating the problems.

    • “‘ Sending at risk kids to live with extended whanau or local communities is just perpetrating the problems.” And sending them to live with european foster families is politically unacceptable.

      Seems we have a real problem that Maori WILL have to fix for themselves, one step at a time.

      • kittycatkin

         /  31st August 2015

        CYFS have a thankless job in many ways. They are damned whatever they do-send children to whanau members with their own problems or send them to other race families and risk a PC outcry. If I knew of a Pakeha child who was in a really dysfunctional home, I’d be far less concerned about the skin colour of the foster parents than I would about them being good decent people. I know Maori familes who can adopt me, if they like 😀 And I know of others to whom I wouldn’t trust a dog, never mind a child.


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